Touch the stars
Meteorite museum in northern Chile takes you out on the hunt
With one of the largest meteorite collections in the world, Museo del Meteroito offers meteorite hunting trips and other hands-on excursions and tutorials.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
With more than 3,000 artifacts, the Museo del Meteroito, or the Meteorite Museum, in San Pedro de Atacama is one of the largest collections of meteorites on the planet.
The museum, which dates back to 1986, was founded by marine biologist Rodrigo Martínez, who discovered his first meteorite while exploring the Antofagasta Region with his brother, a geologist.
Since then Martínez has set off into the desert in search of meteorites in month-long annual expeditions. Martínez described these solemn journeys in an interview with El Mercurio.
“It’s a kind of a trance, where solitude and silence help me to concentrate and be more efficient,” he said.
In order to distinguish an endless swathe of regular rocks from meteorites, Martínez said he enters into, “a state of meditation where the only thing in [my] mind is the geology that surrounds [me].” Having achieved this state, he becomes capable of “visualizing the unique forms of meteorites.”
The Museo del Meteorito says it is certified by NASA, the University of California Los Angeles, and the French Centre Européen de Recherche et d’Enseignement des Géosciences de l’Environnement (CEREGE). All meteorites collected are studied on site and samples are sent to NASA.
“Each meteorite we find is a page from a book that tells the history of the universe, being that they maintain intact the chemical composition of our solar system since its creation more than 4,500 million years ago,” the museum’s website wrote, “[Meteroites] reveal surprising phenomena in the evolution of the cosmos.”
Hands-on Meteorite Hunt
Museo del Meteorito offers exciting interactive experiences like their ‘Tocando las Estrellas’ (Touching the Stars) gallery, where visitors can actually touch the meteorites on display. During the full moon, they hold lectures and observations to see how asteroids have affected the lunar surface.
Finally, in the museum’s most interactive endeavor yet, Martínez runs meteorite hunts or ‘Cacería de Meteoritos’ which involve a detailed tutorial about meteorites in the museum followed by an excursion into the surrounding desert. They guarantee you will find at least one meteorite. After the hunt itself, visitors return to the museum to study the findings, taking samples and running chemical tests. The meteorite hunt costs US$ 1024.94 (CLP 485,000) for one person and lessons significantly for larger groups.
For more information about Museo del Meteorito visit the website.